Friday 25 March 2022

Thanateros - On Fragile Wings (2022)

Country: Germany
Style: Gothic Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 25 Mar 2022
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I'm always up for a gothic/folk metal band I haven't heard before and Berlin's Thanateros fit that bill even though they've been around as long as the millennium (though they took a decade out in the 2010s. This is their sixth studio album and their second since reforming in 2018. It didn't knock my socks off but it's a reliable release that makes me think about finding those prior albums and what they might sound like. I'd like to know how their sound has developed over time.

On this one, they're a lot more gothic than folk, even though the intro, Kybalion (Time to Fly) is full of folky/tribal elements. Those elements vanish when the songs proper show up. Sure, one of the five musicians in Thanateros, Christof Uhlmann, is credited only on violin but he uses it to lend the band a veneer of elegance, that hand created and hand polished mahogany and brass mindset of the Victorian social elite that's moved so well into steampunk, rather than to spin Thanateros off into folk music.

If there's another genre here beyond gothic, I'd say that it's NDH, because this is music that drives inexorably forward in a way that would be more industrial if it wasn't polished this nicely. In a sort of contradiction to Uhlmann's contributions, sometimes that drive comes through electronics, the two approaches combining in neat fashion as On the Barricades begins. I'm guessing that this is a gothic metal band that started out darkwave and heavied up rather than a metal band who found a particular texture that worked for them. Ben Richter's vocals are clean but with a rasp and I bet that wasn't always the case.

It may not sound particularly promising to suggest that the first song that really grabbed me was We are the Ravens, given that it's seventh here, so perhaps the beginning of the flipside of an LP. However, I enjoyed the album up until that point, even if nothing in it matches how much this one does in its six and a half minutes, making it easily the longest song here except for Nothing Lasts Forever, the album's epic closer, which is a full minute longer.

This one kicks off with the cawing of birds, perhaps rather expectedly given that title, but shifts to an unusual mix of tribal drums, frantic but controlled keyboards and almost chanted vocals. It's an impressive intro, which gives way to the violin and its elegance over flurry, highly appropriate for the subject matter. This may well be my favourite song here with Nothing Lasts Forever coming in a sightly distant second, featuring less coolness but more grandeur, reminding often of Paradise Lost in a Depeche Mode mood.

While none of the shorter songs, which still occupy the four to five and a half minute range, come close to those two longer songs, I do like them. Everything here is catchy and commercial but ever draped in darkness, to underline that this is goth not mainstream, and nothing lets the side down. I'd call out Coven of the Drowned, On the Barricades and Fading for special mention, even though they're different in approach, especially the latter, which occasionally hints at nu metal within its vocal delivery, albeit only in the verses.

There's also quite a lot of it, the album running well past fifty minutes even before we add a bonus track to nudge it even closer to the hour mark. That's another highlight, by the way, a cover of the Kate Bush standard Running Up That Hill, though it's appropriately a bonus. It would steal far too much attention as a regular track. It fits nicely at the end of the album as a perk, after Thanateros have done their thing for so long, almost like an extra encore at a live gig.

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